Why can't you just leave it alone? Deviations from memorized language as a gauge of nativelike competence

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This chapter reports an investigation into the capacity of language learners to improve their performance through the memorization of specifically targeted linguistic material. Six intermediate/advanced learners of English memorized nativelike versions of conversational turns that they anticipated needing in future conversations. After rehearsal, they attempted to use the memorized material in real interaction. Recordings of all stages of the process were transcribed and analyzed, to identify the nature of the deviations made from the targets. Nativelike deviations are interpreted as a legitimate approximation of nativelike behaviour, since fully faithful reproduction of a memorized original is usually neither necessary nor desirable for those with the linguistic skill to make appropriate changes. Non-nativelike deviations are viewed as indicative of shortfalls in knowledge, poor attention focus, and over-optimistic risk-taking during memorization. Individual profiles of the learners are presented, and it is proposed that memorization could be used as a means of establishing the strengths and weaknesses of learners in relation to morphological, lexical and phraseological knowledge


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